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Wendy Reuer, Published October 12 2012

New Wahpeton cafe/gift shop named in honor of daughter open for business

WAHPETON, N.D. – Deb Johnson didn’t know why her eyes filled with tears as she stood in the sunny hallway of the refurbished century-old Victorian home here.

Maybe it was because Wahpeton’s newest café/gift shop is dedicated someone special.

Antoinette’s On The River, which opened Sept. 18, a converted 2,300-square-foot Victorian home overlooking the headwaters of the Red River, is operated by Linda Kutzer and Brenda Gjesdal.

The business is a tribute to its namesake – Antoinette Gjesdal, Brenda’s daughter, known to most as “Annie.”

Eighteen-year-old Annie was killed in 2009 when her car was struck by a beet truck at a Wahpeton intersection.

Deb Johnson said she knew Annie. Her son, Tanner, graduated with her.

As Johnson and her daughter Sam wandered through the five upstairs bedrooms of the Victorian home this week, each one refurbished with a touch of the house’s original charm – flaked wallpapers, lace curtains that show off the delicate sunlight and décor comprised of gift items, books and jewelry for-sale – Johnson couldn’t help but feel the warmth Annie was known for.

“She was just a special person,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she is impressed by the work of Kutzer and Gjesdal.

Sam Johnson said the shop feels “homey” as she looked through the many eclectic items.

Gjesdal said she hoped patrons would feel the spirit of Annie, who she and Kutzer agreed seemed to be alongside them during the renovation.

Two dining rooms seat up to 20 on the main floor, which also has updated public bathrooms. The kitchen was gutted and modernized to provide space for staff to prepare coffees and treats. Gjesdal and Kutzer painstakingly refinished the original tiled fireplace, parlor chandelier and detailed wooden staircase on the main floor to retain the home’s historic character.

Pictures of Annie – soft reminders of the business’s inspiration – are placed in nearly every room.

Before Antoinette’s On The River opened, Annie’s friends and family volunteered to work at the small shop.

Her cousin, Cooperstown native Erika Gjesdal, was already hard at work this week at Antoinette’s, a job she said she loves.

The original home was built in 1904 and was once home to the Rosenberg family, who ran a chiropractic practice on the main floor, city records show. It later was converted to a bed and breakfast until the city purchased it after the 1997 flood as part of its flood mitigation program.

In 2011, the city of Wahpeton approved Gjesdal and Kutzer’ s proposal for Antoinette’s On The River.

The longtime friends hoped to have the shop open by May of this year because Annie was born in May.

But Kutzer said the extended renovation period has been worth it, with business going well since opening.

The partners plan to contribute part of the business proceeds to a scholarship fund in Annie’s name.

“This is all for Annie,” Brenda Gjesdal said. “She will never be forgotten.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

If you go

What: Antoinette’s On the River

When: Open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: 86 Dakota Ave., Wahpeton, N.D.